Vaaimai: Court unquote

In their efforts to make a foolproof debut, I wonder if upcoming directors look at dialogue-driven movies like the Before Series, Coffee and Cigarettes and Primer as an easy first step. After all, they don’t require a big budget, stars or even a super-hit soundtrack. All one has to do is capture a few long dialogues in a believable setting and we have a hit movie in our hands, right?

Judging by the final output of Vaaimai, I’m guessing it has now dawned on the director (A. Senthil Kumar) that he would have been better off waiting for the stars, the money, the songs…

The film attempts to Indianise an all-time classic, 12 Angry Men. So, wouldn’t you expect the writers to at least come up with a convincing-enough explanation to bring back the long-abolished jury system to India? No such luck here. The reason is tossed up in exactly one line… a woman is on death row after several decades for a political murder, and the judge wants 12 jurors (not just men), chosen randomly, to take the call.

Genre: Courtroom drama
Director: A. Senthil Kumar
Cast: Shanthnu Bhagyaraj, Thiagarajan, Poornima Bhagyaraj
Storyline: A 12-member jury needs to decide the fate of a woman on death row
Bottomline: A forgettable re-interpretation of an all-time classic

In 12 Angry Men, there was genuine joy in watching the exercise of consensus-building, as each vote for the defendant turned “not guilty”. In Vaaimai, the opinions of these jurors change so easily, with so little convincing, that you feel you’re just checking off 12 boxes so you can leave.

One of Vaaimai’s several flaws is the character they’ve chosen as the defendant. “The boy”, the defendant in the original, was revealed to us so cautiously, that we’re never really sure if he’s guilty or not. But in Vaaimai, defendant Devaki Ammal (Poornima Bhagyaraj), is introduced with an “oh-so-poor” montage, showing her never-ending sacrifices to raise her son in a cruel city. With her being portrayed as a fountain of nobility, you know it’s impossible for her to have actually committed the crime.

Also, for a film that’s supposed to be driven by seamless conversations, the segues are hilarious. An elaborate joke plays out about a rich obese woman, who after having entered the courtroom without eating, steals the cleaner’s lunchbox. The next scene is a transgender woman’s impassioned appeal to support the defendant because she is a mother, which is then followed by a white man’s support speech, delivered in chaste Tamil.

Throw in a pointless song towards the end only for the hero’s vanity and you’re almost jealous of the person on death row.

A reason why the jury system was abolished was perhaps to avoid such films from getting made.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 11:07:59 AM |

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